After performing separately in different bands, brothers Michael and David Champion came together to form latest pop sensation, Champs. Combining classic melancholy folk sounds with upbeat pop vibes inspired by the likes of R.E.M and The Beatles, Champs provide a fresh and euphoric outlook on the classic genre.
We spoke to David about what it's like to work with family, the Isle of White music scene and recording in Queen Victoria's Osborne house.
CM: Hi David, How are you?
David: Good thanks, good.
CM: Considering you're a relatively new band, would you mind explaining how the band formed?
David: Yeah, the band formed quite organically I suppose. We're brothers. Me and my brother Michael always grew up playing music together. We learnt guitar from the same guy in our village. We were in separate teenage bands when we were younger and then we started working together on some songs at home and recorded a couple of demos. Then, somehow, Dermot O' Leary heard one of them, the song 'St. Peters', and he said 'Do you want to come and do a session on Radio Two?' So we did that and that made us take the project really seriously. We were just doing it as a little side thing and then we thought, 'Hang on, let's give this a go', so we recorded a whole album and then that got signed to Play It Again Sam records.
So it happened almost accidentally, in a really brilliant way for us. We didn't have to force it at any point.
CM: You mentioned you and your brother were previously in separate bands. Were there any sibling rivalries between the two bands?
David: No, no, not at all. My band were always a bit too c**p. He was in a really good band that were doing quite a lot of gigs and my band was just me and my mates messing about in the village hall playing a couple of gigs at parties and what not. Luckily there was no rivalry.
CM: Your new single 'Savannah', which is Amazon Radio's 'Record of the Week', is released on December 23rd, can you talk a bit about that track?
David: It's probably one of the more upbeat, pop tracks. Quite a lot of the songs [on the album] are about girls, really; they're love songs and ['Savannah'] is technically a love song if you listen to the lyrics. It was a song we had a really rough demo for which really came together in the studio. It was a really fun process; we were building it slowly and gradually and it just sort of happened which was really nice.
It's probably my favourite song to play live because it's really energetic and it's quite euphoric.
CM: 'Savannah' features on your debut album 'Down Like Gold' due to be released on February 24th. What can people expect from the album?
David: A lot of it is melancholy and some of it is much more acoustic. A lot of it is much slower than 'Savannah' and more down beat, maybe a bit sadder even. I think there's quite a lot of cohesion in the album, especially vocally.
CM: You mentioned 'Savannah' is your favourite track to play live, have you any favourite tracks to listen to from the record?
David: Maybe, 'St. Peters' which is the song that Dermot O'Leary heard. I always listen to it through to the end. I must have heard that song a thousand times now and I'm still not bored of it which is a good sign. I always enjoy listening to it.
CM: You stated you grew up playing music. Were there any musical influences that made you want to learn a musical instrument and start a band?
David: We grew up listening to early-ish R.E.M. Our parents had it on tape in their car and we listened to 'Murmur' and 'Out of Time' religiously for years and that is really deep set in my mind as an influence. I think Michael Stipes is one of the best melody writers I know of and I think that helped us move towards doing quite melodious songs that are essentially pop songs because that's what R.E.M really is; just three minute long, brilliant pop songs. So I think that was quite a big influence growing up.
Then we got into all the American greats like Bob Dylan and Neil Young, a lot of the classics really. We got into The Beatles and Nirvana during our mid-teens so nothing ground-breaking, just the classics.
CM: Obviously, they are all classic bands and artists, are there any current, modern bands that you listen to or have recently inspired you in some way recently?
David: I really love Kurt Vile at the moment. He's probably my favourite current artist. I'm going to see him in December which I'm really, really excited about. I also love his band, The War on Drugs.
I really love the Alt-J album, as everybody else did, and Arcade Fire. There's a really cool American band called On An On who we played with once in Paris which was amazing because I really got into their song 'Ghosts' about a month before, completely randomly, and we found out we were playing with them which was really cool. I'd say they were up there as one of my favourite bands at the moment.
CM: Am I right in believing you're also in The Shutes?
David: Umm, yeah. Me and Mike first joined forces on that. It was Mike's band that he was first in when we were younger and I sort of joined it. It's not really going anymore. It's been completely put on hold - the Champs thing really took over. The Shutes was never properly signed but instead signed to a small label so when we were given the opportunity to sign to a proper label with Champs we said, 'We're going for that now'. I still think there are quite a lot of Shutes fans knocking around who are saying, 'When are you releasing an album?' but it's like, 'Well, we're not really a band anymore'
CM: Has signing to Play It Again Sam made being in a band a little easier?
David: They've helped us do things. They've helped us get to places we wouldn't be able to afford to under normal circumstances. They've really helped us on the creativity of the band with artwork etc. It's really helpful to have an outside opinion sometimes.
We still have total creative control. They're really, really cool in that sense. They don't say, 'We want you to do this' they just say, 'How about this? Have you thought of this?', so it's a very collaborative and very healthy working relationship. It's been really great being a band where you feel you can really take it seriously as a full time thing rather than just, 'Oh yeah, I'm also in a band' - it's really nice to have that feeling that it's a real thing.
CM: Obviously, we've mentioned your brother Michael, have there been any conflicts between the two of you?
David: No. We don't really argue. We occasionally have disagreements about things and then we discuss it and it's all fine. It helps that we have pretty much exactly the same tastes - there's never a worry about creative direction or the way anything is going because we agree. It works really well actually.
Mike does the majority of the writing. He sort of comes up with the backbone of the song then it sort of collaborates on from there. Other times it works the other way around but it's a completely collaborative thing between us two.
CM: Considering there's no conflicts within the band, what has been your biggest challenge you've had to face?
David: I don't suppose there have been any really. We've had a few difficult managers which was perhaps a bit confusing at times but we've got a really great manager now. Nothing stands out really.
CM: Is there a specific highlight which has stood out for you?
David: Yeah, we played an amazing gig in Brussels last year that was in front of about six thousand people when we were playing with Alt-J. That was flippin' rad actually. It was so fun. Another highlight is just hearing your song on national radio; I don't see that ever getting old.
CM: Is there a big music scene in your home county, Isle of White?
David: Umm. There are a lot of bands which is great, and there's a lot of young people who want to make music but there's no outlet on the Isle of White, there's no venue. There used to be a few - there was an amazing venue called Ryde Theatre which was like a mini Brixton Academy, but they had to close it as it had some structural problems. It's quite hard for there to be a "scene" so to speak because you need a real focal point and venue for that to happen. So there are a lot of bands that exist in isolation to each other which is a bit of a shame.
There are some people doing some amazing things; there's a group of people my age, sort of early 20s, who have set up a Fringe festival called Ventnor Fringe Festival, Ventnor is a town just up the road from us. It's become a massive Fringe Festival with like five hundred artists coming to play. They've had Johnny Flynn come to play and Vincent Moon showed his films and stuff. I'd say that was the closest thing to a scene and that happens every summer. So for one weekend every summer Isle of White becomes super cool!
CM: Do you find yourself commuting a lot between the Isle of White and London?
David: Yeah, a great deal. We're at that sort of point where we're working out whether it would be more financially viable to be in London and save on travel, but it's so expensive renting in London so we're just weighing it all up at the moment.
CM: The album was recorded on the Isle of White; can you describe what the recording process was like?
David: We've got two friends who are also brothers, Jim and Rob Homes who used to be in a band called the 'Jackson Analogue' who were quite big in their day for an Isle of White band. They set up a studio in the grounds of Queen Victoria's Isle of White holiday home called Osborne house which is flippin' super cool! We went in there to do what we thought were some demos which were 'St. Peters', 'Down Like Gold' and a couple of other songs. Then the Dermot O'Leary thing happened so we went back in and finished the rest of the album. That was a really simple process that happened really naturally. There was no, 'Let's try and get this producer' or, 'Let's try and get hold of this studio', it just happened really naturally. It was a great studio with great people and they're great friends.
CM: How does it feel to be supporting the Jezabels in February?
David: We're stoked about that because we've only done a couple of small tours around Western Europe to get on the road a bit and get ourselves a name, but we've never really toured the UK at all. We've done loads and loads of gigs in London and loads with our old band the Shutes so we're totally familiar with London but we've never really played anywhere else in this country so we're really, really excited to see a bit of England, Scotland and Ireland. It's going to be wicked.
CM: Can we be hoping for a full headline tour next year perhaps?
David: Yeah, hopefully, maybe this time next year. We're not really sure but hopefully.
CM: What are you aiming for the future of the band?
David: To be able to do a second album I suppose. Just to be in a position where we can carry on doing what we're doing - that's as far as my goals go at the moment. Just to be able to play as many gigs as possible and for people to actually like it and to have enough support so it becomes a really self-sufficient band that works. I just want to keep doing it.
CM: Have you started writing the second album?
David: We could do it now. We've got it all ready!
CM: Thank you very much for speaking with us and we look forward to hearing your debut album and all future material!
Mon 18th Nov Brighton Komedia, Warchild TuneUp w/Yuck & Swiss Lips
Tue 19th Nov London Scala, Warchild TuneUp w/King Charles & Night Engine
Mon 24th Feb Nottingham Rescue Room w/The Jezabels
Tue 25th Feb Manchester Gorilla w/The Jezabels
Wed 26th Feb Glasgow Oran Mor w/The Jezabels
Fri 28th Feb Belfast Limelight 2 w/The Jezabels
Sat 1st March Dublin Button Factory w/The Jezabels
Sun 2nd March Dublin Button Factory w/The Jezabels
Tue 4th March Bristol The Fleece w/The Jezabels
Wed 5th March London Shepherds Bush Empire w/The Jezabels
Thurs 6th March Brighton Concorde 2 w/The Jezabels
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